Psalm 149 (KJV)… Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.
Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud in their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand, To execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; To bind their kings with chains, And their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute on them the written judgment– This honor have all His saints.
So far we understand and accept that we are Chosen… set apart for God’s purposes. Also we recognize that we are to be Holy… receiving imputed righteousness through the cross of Christ, and imparted righteousness as we allow the Holy Spirit to manifest the character of Christ in and through us. And we can rejoice that we are a Royal Priesthood— as the 24 elders of the angelic host sing:
Rev. 5:9-10... You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have purchased for God by Your blood- men out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made them [kings] and priests to our God; and they shall reign on the earth.
And yet we must also recognize that we are a Warrior-Priesthood… true witnesses (in the original Greek meaning martyrs) of the Lord. In the above Psalm 149:6 it speaks of “the high praises of God in our mouths, and a two-edged sword in our hands.” Although there are many times in the history of the people of God– both Israel and the Church where warfare was necessary, and we cannot preclude that possibility out of hand in our future– before our Lord’s return, I believe this is primarily speaking of our spiritual warfare. Truly “This honor have all the saints.” The Lord by His Holy Spirit is training our hands to wage war. But in our present day context this is by our learning to effectively wield the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
Hebrews 4:12… For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of [bone] and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
As the marrow is hidden deep within the bone, so is the spirit concealed deep in the soul of man and woman. Just as one has to break (divide) the bone to reveal the marrow, so likewise the dividing of the spirit from the soul will require the ‘breaking’ of the soul. The doubting mind prone to reasonings apart from God’s will revealed in His Holy Word, or discerned in communion with God in prayer- struggles to believe. Our spirit contacts, receives, contains, and experiences God. The release of the spirit allows us to enjoy Christ and all of His grace toward us, and brings our wandering mind and emotions to focus on all the truth that our Lord reveals to us step by step… line upon line… precept upon precept. If our conscience is clear and our communion with God unbroken, then our thoughts will be in line with and obedient to the Lord. Since our thoughts affect our intentions, we can therefore carry out our wholesome thoughts with godly intentions.
We must know that the Logos of the Word (the canon of scripture, which is the whole counsel of God from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21) becomes the Rhema or the living word of God in our mouths ignited by the Holy Spirit. Under His careful guiding hand it is better than a surgeon’s scalpel… able to separate, discern, and make clear distinction between the thoughts and intentions of the heart. But this Sword of the Spirit is but one part… albeit the most significant- of the whole armor of God.
Ephesians 6:10-18… Finally, be empowered in the Lord and in the might of His strength. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the strategems of the devil. For our wrestling [warfare] is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. And having shod your feet with the firm foundation of the gospel of peace; Besides all these, having taken up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
And receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which… is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in [the Spirit] and watching unto this in all perseverance and petition concerning all the saints.
The rulers, authorities, and world-rulers of this darkness are the rebel angels who followed Lucifer (Satan) in his rebellion against God. They now rule under his delegated authority in the heavenlies over the nations of the world. We see these referenced in Daniel 10:20 as the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece. We must therefore know that our adversaries not only exist in the hidden form of demonic powers, but that whether or not we are willing to fight and resist their onslaught- they do not and will not rest until they achieve our defeat.
This unrelenting warfare is 24/7 against mankind and especially against the children of God, because of their wicked jealousy and vengeful desire to cause us to fall into sin, short-circuiting the fulfillment of our assigned destiny. Too much of the church gravitates between two faithless extremes: on the one hand either not believing in a devil and kingdom of darkness- and willfully sticking their heads in the sand seeking to ignore the danger, or on the other hand- spending so much time finding the enemy behind every bush and circumstance, that they take their eyes off of Jesus. Both of these draw into the sin of not believing and fully trusting in God’s Word.
If we seek to live by Hebrews 12:1 we will fix our eyes upon Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith… and who by His Spirit will give us the gift of spiritual discernment (discerning of spirits) so that we can correctly ‘diagnose’ and respond appropriately to all the schemes of the adversary, for we must not be ignorant of his devices.
Hebrews 12:1,2… Therefore let us also, having so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, put away every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race which is set before us, Looking away unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down on the right hand of the throne of God.
In the sequel to this book- Cleansing the Temple,I will do a more comprehensive study of not only the armor of God and our being clothed with Christ, but also the various aspects of our spiritual warfare and its strategies. For in depth studies on this critical area of Christian life, please consider reading Living in the Combat Zone by Rick Renner, Overcoming the Adversary by Mark Bubeck,and the timeless classic The Christian in Complete Armour (3 Volumes) by William Gurnall. Suffice it to say in this general overview of Kingdom living that we have enlisted in God’s army, and must learn to fight the good fight of faith.
1 Timothy 6:11,12… But you, O man of God… pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, meekness. Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold on the eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed the good confession before many witnesses.
When an enlistee joins a branch of the military he or she agrees to submit to the leadership, discipline, and protocol of military life. It is remarkable how quickly a ‘buck private’ becomes a true soldier with some understanding of his weaponry, military strategy, and need to consistently fit into their position in the fighting unit. Of utmost importance is to not break rank, and to not hesitate upon command.
Real warfare takes the inexperienced soldier to the next level, with each encounter building upon the previous ones… honing and perfecting one’s skills for combat. Likewise in the life of the church and each member individually there are spiritual battles to engage in, and with God’s grace- to win in order to gain ground, and rescue and transform a lost world.
2 Corinthians 4:1-7… Therefore having this ministry as we have been shown mercy, we do not lose heart; But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every conscience of men before God.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelievers that the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
Because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us.
God’s shining in the universe produced the old creation; now His shining in our hearts makes us a new creation which makes us able to exalt Christ as Lord. God’s shining in us produces the new covenant ministers and our ministry, treasures in earthen vessels- the glory of Christ hidden and revealed in us. This is resurrection power which when seen at work in and through us, brings glory to God since it is apparently not inherently of us. Against all opposition and under the leading of the Holy Spirit we are to let the light of the gospel shine into men’s hearts.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21… But all things are out from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; Namely, that God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not accounting their offenses to them, and has put in us the word of reconciliation. On behalf of Christ then we are ambassadors, as God entreats you through us; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God. Him who did not know sin He made sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We have the ministry of reconciliation delegated to us as ambassadors since Christ reconciled the world to himself on the cross. We must bring the treasures out of darkness, imploring men and women on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God. This ministry cannot be taken lightly, for the Adversary will not give up his deceived captives easily. He will continually unleash all the forces at his disposal to attempt to defeat our efforts. How do we prevail? Where is our combat heaviest? Where do we gain the insight and wisdom of our Commander to block, rout, and destroy the enemy? In the arena of prayer and praise.
I like what outstanding Bible teacher Perry Stone once taught on the armor of God (Mannafest broadcast on Christian networks or streaming on the Internet). His entire catalog of resources available via his website [www.perrystone.org] is worthy of in depth study… most profound. He said that besides the whole armor of God listed in scripture, we also have two javelins that are called Prayer and Praise! Besides our sword which is the living and indwelling Word of God- we also have these two offensive weapons that we can launch against the enemy moment by moment.
Let’s look a little more closely at Psalm 149: v1…sing His praise in the congregation of His faithful ones. v3…Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing psalms to Him [with instruments]. v6…Let the high praises of God be in their throats…
These verses among many others in the scriptures hold a profound secret to our consistent victory in spiritual warfare: that is prayer and praise- which is a profoundly effective form of sung prayer- change the spiritual atmosphere in our favor.Time and again heart-felt sincere intercession, and the attitude of vocal praise in spite of the circumstances leads to victory against all odds. The five books that our contemporary Bible calls Psalms, is prayer- agonizing intercession, petition, crying out to God… intersperse with praise and adoration- all set to music.
Several examples reveal the powerful truth that God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3… You who sit enthroned upon the praises of Israel). The first deals with the righteous king Jehoshaphat of the tribe of Judah causing the people to seek the Lord to avert the onslaught of enemies united against them. In response to their humility, brokenness, and supplication- the Word of the Lord through His prophet Jahaziel declared in verse 17:
2 Chronicles 20:17-24… It is not for you to fight in this battle. Station yourselves; stand and see the Salvation of Jehovah among you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid nor dismayed. Tomorrow go out to meet them, for Jehovah is with you.
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before Jehovah to worship [the Lord]. And the Levites… rose up to praise Jehovah the God of Israel with an exceedingly loud voice. And they rose up early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa. And as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem. Believe in Jehovah your God, and you will be established; believe in His prophets, and you will succeed.
And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed them to sing to Jehovah and give thanks in holy array as they went before the army and say, Give thanks to Jehovah, for His lovingkindness endures forever. And when they began to shout in song and to praise, Jehovah set ambushes for the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who were coming out against Judah; and they were struck.
And the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to absolutely destroy and demolish them; and when they had made an end o f the inhabitants of Seir, every man helped to destroy his neighbor. And Judah came to the wilderness watchtower and looked upon the multitude; and there they were, fallen corpses on the ground, and no one escaped.
Another clear example is played out in 1 Samuel 16-NKJV. Sometime after God had anointed David by the hand of His servant Samuel… v13… Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward; as punishment for King Saul’s willful rebellion against God, we see in v14… But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him. In the rest of this chapter we see that David as a skilled musician was commissioned to play for Saul when he was terrorized by this evil spirit and as it says in v23… And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would… play… Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
A New Testament example of this pivotal truth in our ongoing, relentless spiritual warfare- is demonstrated in the lives of Paul and Silas, as we see in Acts 16. After casting out a spirit of divination from a woman in the city of Philippi, they were both arrested, beaten severely, and chained in a dungeon with many prisoners. Most of us- probably myself included- would have felt troubled as if God had deserted us. We find a completely opposite reaction in the lives of these anointed saints of God.
Acts 16:25… But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations o f the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. This again demonstrate the inherent power of humble prayer and praise in spite of very difficult circumstances, which drives the forces of darkness away (albeit temporarily), and empowers the holy angels of God to move into the fray with divinely directed intervention.
2 Corinthians 10:4-6… For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but powerful before God for the overthrowing of strongholds, as we overthrow reasonings and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ. And we are ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
These divinely powerful weapons pull down the carnal reasonings and thoughts that are the strongholds of Satan. But although we often hear verses 4 and 5 taught, I have never heard a minister include and stress verse 6: our obedience and submission to the Lord is the prerequisite for victory in doing consistently what the rest of this portion of scripture states.
James 4:7-10 (NKJV)… Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
We wage war according to the Spirit- not prematurely, but rather in response to the mind of Christ, whose agenda, strategies, and timing are perfect. For example, when we receive a burden to pray for someone’s salvation we must not ignore it, nor relent when we do begin to pray. We must continue to hold that individual before the Lord in prayer whenever he or she comes to mind. We must plead the Blood of Jesus over their lives, praying for the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come upon them. We can then anticipate and look for the opportunity or divine appointment that the Holy Spirit will orchestrate to allow us to speak into that person’s life according to their specific, tangible, and immediate need. We remain humble and receptive to the Spirit’s leading in conversation with the person so that He can effectively apply the scalpel of the Word to deal directly with their need in the moment. This is genuinely how we draw people into the Kingdom… not out of fear, but because of God’s love, mercy, and direct answer to their heartfelt need.
One of the problems of the church today is that too many do not recognize the religious spirit of self-righteousness and condemnation that is antithetical to the true nature and ways of the Holy Spirit. Vast numbers of souls that will come into the Kingdom between now and the Lord’s return will only come when we selflessly minister the love of Jesus, the broken heart of the Father, and the healing virtue of the Holy Spirit in all humility and all due respect… no matter what the person’s condition. Let us always remember that we were once there too. God’s mercy and love are forever unfathomable… let us spread it abroad generously, for it is truly an inexhaustible supply!
Often we will have times of intimate transparency where a soul will respond to the cry of their heart for healing and deliverance. Then we can almost hear the angels rejoice as another child is born into the Kingdom. But again too many times our efforts, our prayers, our words in season, and our pleading in intercession do not seem to bear fruit… at least not that we are privileged to see. But only God knows if and when that child of mankind will come to their senses and receive eternal life through the finished work of Christ on the cross.
When I first heard the gospel in 1970 as a UCLA college student, I scoffed with great disdain and animosity toward a friend who had apparently lost his mind and had become a Jesus Freak. Little did Tom know the fruit that will accrue to his heavenly account based upon that one encounter, which was the last time I saw him. Not only did three generations of my entire family (over 14 members) come to the Lord when I and my wife Robyn became Christians, but also many friends and acquaintances that we ‘compelled’ over time and with much prayer- into the Kingdom. This is our eternal reward: souls… the full reward of the Lamb’s sufferings.
Jude 21-25… Keep yourselves in the love of God, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have mercy, on those who are wavering; Save them by snatching them out of the fire. On others have mercy in fear, hating even the inner garment spotted from the flesh.
But to Him who is able to guard you from stumbling and to set you before His glory without blemish in exultation, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, might, and authority before all time and now and unto all eternity. AMEN